Record number of 'new' Belgians likely to be broken in 2023

Record number of 'new' Belgians likely to be broken in 2023
The Belgian passport. Credit: Belga/Jonas Hamers

The number of people acquiring Belgian nationality has risen further in the first half of 2023, preliminary figures from the Belgian statistical office Statbel showed.

Last year, a total of 47,561 non-Belgian people acquired Belgian nationality by attaining citizenship in the country – the highest level in two decades. It also marked the first time since 2002 that the annual number exceeded 45,000.

Migration experts say this was a direct consequence of the influx of refugees in 2015, as most people must live in Belgium for five years before being eligible to apply for citizenship.

In 2001, a total of 62,994 people became Belgium in this way following the introduction of the law that accelerated the procedure for acquiring Belgian nationality. While 2022 did not break this record it is likely this figure will be surpassed in 2023.

Changing trend

The first half of 2023 saw almost 29,000 foreign nationals gain Belgian nationality – an increase of more than 12% compared to the same period in 2022, Statbel figures based on data from the National Register showed.

In June of this year, 5,287 people acquired Belgian nationality – 1,000 more than in the same month last year. The majority are from Morocco, Romania, Syria, Afghanistan and Italy.

As in 2022, March was the month which saw the highest number of new Belgian nationals; in 2022 this was 4,558 while in March this year this figure rose to 5,496. Notably more than 3,000 people received the nationality in Flanders.

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The Di Rupo government (December 2011 – October 2014) tightened the rules on economic and social integration and imposed the requirement to prove language skills and legal residence of at least five years as minimum conditions in 2013. This resulted in the number of people acquiring Belgian nationality dropping to 18,000 in 2014.

Most foreign nationals acquire Belgian citizenship by making a nationality declaration and following an integration programme. The naturalisation procedure, particularly for high-level scientists or particularly deserving athletes, is exceptional.

Find more about the process of attaining citizenship here.

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